'Party of Five - The Complete Series'
(Scott Wolf, Mathew Fox, Neve Campbell, Lacey Chabert, Paula Devicq, et al / 24-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: After the sudden loss of their parents, the Salinger children must band together to keep their own lives on track, discovering first loves, last calls, and themselves along the rocky road to growing up. Headlined by a young, sexy cast this highly-rated, long-running series firmly found its place as a pop culture phenomenon for all ages.
DVD Verdict: The facts about this delightful TV show speak volumes for the quality of the programming back then: 'It won the Golden Globe® for Best Drama TV Series in 1996; It launched the careers of Neve Campbell, Scott Wolf, Lacy Chabert, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Matthew Fox; In 1995, TV Guide named the series The Best Show You're Not Watching. And now, here in 2016, for the first time EVER, all the 142 episodes are available in their entirety in this gigantic 24 disc box-set. Indeed, it's also the first time Seasons 4-6 have been made available at retail also.
Moving on and in my own humble opinion, ever since 1994, 'Party of Five' stood out as the second best drama show about youngsters, beaten only by 'My So-Called Life'. The Salingers have been facing tragedy after tragedy since the day they lost their parents. This is as realistic as it gets. While 'Dawson's Creek' and 'Felicity' tended to escape reality every now and then, 'Party of Five' stood out faithful to the world's reality.
Scott Wolf did a fantastic job portraying Bailey, especially in 1996 and 1997, during the days of his alcoholism and the following tough sobriety and subsequent management of the restaurant. He also lived through hell as he sacrificed his personal life for the sake of his family and nearly lost all faith in perfect love and affection as he dated drug addict Jill Holbrook, who killed herself with an overdose. Matthew Fox gave life to Charlie. His character suffered greatly as he took the responsibility for his siblings. It got even more dramatic when he had Hodgkin's disease, which changed his life forever. He turned from an irresponsible 24 year old to a responsible and honest 28 year old as he took care of little Diana all by himself ever since Daphne left him and her.
Neve Campbell brought depth and deep emotions to Julia as the teenager grew through huge and complicated steps in her life such as her long line of relationships with Justin, Sam, Ned, Griffin and several others. She also had to deal with her pregnancy and miscarriage. Then she lived a whole year married to Griffin, which changed her deeply. After that, she was hit by Ned episode after episode until she kissed Perry Marks, which made her realize the course of her whole life in the past five years.
Lacey Chabert is the greatest young actress ever and she changed as much as her character Claudia. From a violinist to a normal teenager, Claudia was the most affected by everything that happened in the show. Even with the constant change of young actors, Jacob Smith seems like the best actor yet to portray 5 year old Owen Salinger. He never really got to know his late parents and has seen Bailey, Charlie and Kirsten as his parents ever since.
Jennifer Love-Hewitt portrayed Sarah Reeves Merrin and saw her world change as the years passed and she faced tough experiences, such as being cheated by Bailey, having discovered her orphanage and adoption, being attacked by a burglar, among several other experiences. Paula Devicq and her character Kirsten had terrible experiences ever since she was hired as Owen's nanny. She dated Charlie, was cheated by him, got back together, nearly got married (but Charlie was afraid of commitment) and lived through a disastrous depressive state. Jeremy London also did a great job portraying Griffin. At first he seemed to be just Julia's boyfriend, but he made a character out of himself as he faced tough situations such as leaving his father, losing his sister Jill, being arrested twice and breaking up with Julia.
There were great recurring players in the show as well. Michael Goorjian did a great job with Justin from 1995 to 1996. Tamara Taylor did a fantastic job, portraying Grace Wilcox in 1996 and 1997. Alexondra Lee's performance as Callie was magnificent, which made her a regular for the whole season (1996-1997). Carrol O'Connor did a good job as Grandpa Jake, but his story line was cut short. I don't understand why he left the show. His disease wasn't a good excuse at the 1996 Christmas. Paige Turco was the best of them all when she portrayed Annie Mott along with young Allison Bertolino as little Natalie from 1997 to 1998. Paige brought Annie the full force she also brought to her NYPD Blue gay character Abby Sullivan. Also, and finally, Jennifer Aspen did a great job portraying Daphne and her involvement with the show.
BTW, did you know that Jerry O'Connell was originally cast as Bailey Salinger?! He quit the role though just before the pilot was filmed, to star as Quinn in Sliders (1995). Look how well that TV show turned out, but that said, he still made quite a nice career out of things for himself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.